|The holiday binge is over.|
As after most binges, I've ended feeling slightly overindulged -- I've had enough younger brothers with gambling problems, dukes with rakish reputations, and haute ton society gatekeepers to last me another six months. I also have completed a crash course in rule-bound historical romantic tension, which is just what I need for the YA historical fantasy I'm writing.
Prolonged reading binges are how I became literate in the fantasy genre and in the middle-grade category. Until those self-directed educations, I read primarily adult literary fiction, and I haven't gone back yet. Deep and wide immersive reading is form of research for fiction writers, and for me a purely pleasurable one. I had to know the voice and rhythms before I could find my own. I needed to learn the tropes and conventions so that I could avoid or deploy them purposefully, rather than falling into them inadvertently.
Binges are the modern way of consuming media. Binge TV watching started with broadcast marathons, then exploded with DVD box sets. Now digital streaming has turned video consumption from a rationed-out, once a week television appointment to on-demand indulgence. Netflix and Amazon now release whole series at once, and Amazon boasts that its series are "bingeworthy." Why watch one episode at a time when you can watch two or three in a night or a whole series in a weekend?
That kind of immediate gratification is the same for books -- finish one book by an author, then download the rest of the backlist or series. It's how many experience video gaming -- a weekend spent in MMORPG. They're all vicarious forms of living, from which we emerge slightly bleary-eyed, but with a sense of having lived in these imagined worlds and genres.
The difference between a binge that saps energy or feeds creativity is how you feel when it's over. Does it leave you with a hangover or an afterglow? Do you feel as drained as if you were really the one battling invaders, solving murder mysteries, or saving the world, or are you energized to create something new?
For fiction writer, an uninterrupted immersion is just what many of us need -- especially in the form of a binge of inspired writing, whether National Novel Writing Month, a writers' retreat, or just a really good writing day when we somehow quadruple our usual output. For me, my writing binge lasted from August through October, when I wrote 75,000 words, before I fell back into a reading cycle. I've used that extended reading cycle to recharge my creative juices so I can finish this manuscript and try to make it a book.
Today I am back at work, back in the real world after a vacation binge of family and fiction. I'm back to reading middle-grade fantasy (right now The Wrinkled Crown by Mayhemmer Anne Nesbet), and my writing will likely each go back to an hour a day, which is enough to get me where I need to go if I keep working consistently. But I can only do it because I let my creative spirit vacation somewhere else, for just a little while.
(And it probably is time to cool it on the Christmas cookies.)